By Dan Gilles
Every year the West Shore Conference has existed, the one constant has been the Rocky River girls track team winning the championship.
Last Wednesday and Friday at Avon Middle School, the Pirates made sure the trophy stayed put.
Vermilion gave Rocky River a run for its money, but the Pirates continued their string of winning, outscoring the Sailors, 161-135, for their seventh-straight title.
Rocky River has never finished lower than first in the history of the WSC.
“The kids have all been working hard, and I was actually a little concerned that some of them were running too much,” Rocky River girls coach Julie Achladis said. “But they pulled through it. They showed they are truly team players, trying to score as many points for the team as they can. It makes a big difference.
“We have a lot of freshmen this year, and I was concerned, with this being a big meet, that the pressure might get to them. But the older girls we have are great leaders, and they fed right into it. They see the excitement they get from performing at their best, and the young girls really performed well, too. They did a great job.”
Only River, Vermilion and Bay (third, 122.5) won individual events in the two-day event. In fact, of the 17 events, new conference records were set in 13 of them.
The Pirates won eight of those events – all running events – and set records in five of those victories.
“Madi Connelly asked to run the 400, and we knew the rest time wasn’t a whole lot in between, but she did a great job,” Achladis said. “So did Elyse Beirut, and Maddy McDonough running the mile and the 800.
“Elyse was hoping to beat our school record of 5:07, and she did way more than that. I didn’t know what she would do in the two-mile after running that well in the mile, so I’m sort of surprised that she broke the meet record. She’s a tough kid.”
Beirut, a senior, broke meet records in both the 1600 (4:59.42) and the 3200 (11:13.63) runs, and ran the anchor leg in the record-setting 3200 relay, helping Connelly, Anna Eversman and McDonough finish in 9:37.31.
Beirut said she had never run a sub-five-minute mile prior to Friday’s performance in the 1600, which shattered the old record by 11.78 seconds (set by McDonough in 2009).
“I’m very happy with my day,” said Beirut, who will only run both 3200 events at districts and beyond. “I definitely wanted to (get my personal record) in the mile, and that was my main focus, since this is the last mile that I’m going to run this season. I wanted to go out with a good mile time, and I went for it.
“I just relied on whatever I had left in the two-mile, so I was surprised that I set the record there.”
McDonough actually finished second in the 1600 in 5:18.71, and took fourth in the 800 run.
“We’ve had a really good season, and I’m just proud of everybody,” Beirut said. “I’m glad everything worked out for us here. We definitely wanted to keep the tradition going, and we all picked each other up with our performances.”
Connelly also set a record in the 800 with a winning time of 2:20.07, breaking the old record of 2:22.69 set by Rocky River’s Megan O’Keefe in 2010. She also ran with Mary DeVito, Monica McDonough and Sarah Lesiecki in setting the record in the 1600 relay with a time of 4:03.93.
That record also broke a mark set by Rocky River – 4:10.23 set in 2007.
“I had run the 400 earlier, and I was pretty exhausted from that,” Connelly said. “I was just going to run the 800 to see how well I could do, and since I won it last year, my main goal was to win it again. So, I was pretty happy with my time, and finding out it was the record was icing on the cake.
“Even though I came in third in the 400, I (got my personal record) at 59.07, so I was pretty happy with that. It’s been a good day, that’s for sure.”
Lesiecki won the 400 dash with a time of 59.01 seconds, while Monica McDonough won the 300 hurdles with a time of 46.13 seconds and Morgan Berg won the 100 hurdles with a time of 15.55 seconds. Neither were record-setting meet times, but were just fine in the eyes of their coach.
“Monica McDonough, a freshman, broke our school record in the 300 hurdles,” Achladis said. “For a freshman to do that, that’s outstanding. Morgan Berg came in first in the 100 hurdles. Sarah Lesiecki (placed first) in the 400 and Madi Connolly came in the third in the 400, but (Connolly) came back to win the 800 not even 20 minutes later.
“Avon had a better time than us in the 4×4 this year, and our girls were hungry for that one. They showed that today.”
Decrane took second in the pole vault with a vault of 8-foot-6 to help the Pirates in their title quest.
Bay did most of its damage in the field events, led by Amelia Strickler.
Strickler broke two records set by Avon’s Christina Herbst in 2009 in both the discus and the shot put. Her discus throw of 134-6 was 5-7 longer than the previous record, and her shot put of 41-8.25 was 2-4.25 longer than the old record.
Also, Kaylee Kish won the pole vault with a vault of 9-6, while Eva Rezek took second in the 100 and 300 hurdles and Hallie Bechtel took second in the 800 for the Rockets.
Bay’s James Fell was the lone area winner on the boys’ side of things, edging Avon’s Austin Fasciana with a time of 4:29.31 to win the 1600.
Cameron McCrae took second in the 110 and 300 hurdles, while Marek Mutch took second in the pole vault for the Rockets, which finished fourth with 84 points.
Jon Hinson’s second-place finish in the discus led the way for the Rocky River boys, who finished tied for fifth with Vermilion at 55 points.
Fairview made its presence felt in its first Patriot Athletic Conference championship meet last Tuesday and Thursday at Firelands High School, finishing tied for third with host Firelands on the boys’ side with 98 points and third behind the Falcons on the girls’ side with 98 points.
Fairview coach Rich Friel and his coaching staff believed that the girls were shorted three points and should have tied with Firelands for second at 102 points. However, the meet ended without that issue being resolved.
“As the head coach, and seeing our boys six points out of second place, along with our girls four points out of second, really took a toll on me,” Friel said. “Some of our field events hurt us this week and last. I just didn’t have some of our field events ready mentally on Tuesday and Thursday.
“We have performed well all year except for this week and last,” he added. “Our kids have put up the numbers in the past, but I need to do a better job getting them ready for this type of competition, at this point in the season.”
Rorie Juhn led the Fairview individuals, winning the high jump with a leap of 6-3 and the 110 hurdles with a time of 15.70 seconds.
The team of Blake Beard, Chris Gilmore, Dan Soloman and James Roland won the meet-ending 1600 relay with a time of 3:39.50. Beard, Gilmore, Mike Wilkinson and John Miles won the 3200 relay on Tuesday with a time of 8:25.70 to round out the Fairview boys winners.
Gilmore took second in the 300 hurdles with a time of 42.40, while Beard took second in the 800 run with a time of 2:00.80. The time would have been enough for a meet record, but Buckeye’s Ryan Gallagher won with a time of 2:00.20.
Roland took second in the 400 dash with a time of 52.50 to help lead the Fairview boys.
On the girls’ side, Emma McQuate won the 1600 run with a time of 5:47.80, while S. Miller won the 400 dash with a time of 1:03.70. McQuate also took second in the 800 run.
Lutheran West finished seventh in the boys standings with 36 points and took fifth in the girls standings with 57 points. Marissa Nuti was the lone individual winner for the Longhorns, winning the 800 with a time of 2:30.50.
“We competed well with our times continuing to improve,” Lutheran West head coach Joe King said. “Our younger runners are gaining valuable experience, which hopefully will pay off in the future. We are looking forward to having everyone healthy and ready to compete in districts.
“Marissa Nuti ran a great race,” he added. ”She has really worked hard, and now it is starting to pay off. We are proud of her efforts.”